When Kenya last played South African provincial side Mpumalanga Pumas, they succumbed to a 101-7 defeat in June 2010.
The Pumas are coming to Kenya, to take on the national rugby team in two fixtures on June 8 and 11. They are currently placed third in the North Section of South Africa’s Premier provincial rugby competition, the Vodacom Cup, behind the Golden Lions and GWK Griquas. Southern Section leaders are guest Argentinean team, Pampas [the only team with a hundred percent record after eight matches] followed by Western Province and the Sharks.
The Pumas had originally planned to bring an Under-21 team to Nairobi but their Chief Executive Officer Kuus Krooger, said “We are bringing our professional team and not an U/21 group as Jakes [Jake van de Merwe, another Mpumalanga official] negotiated originally,” Krooger said in his latest communication with the Kenya Rugby Union.
All is set for the Pumas tour and on Thursday 12th May 2011, KRU chairman, Mwangi Muthee, confirmed that they had reached an agreement with Sarova Hotels over the Pumas’ accommodation and meals.
“All our visitors requested was decent meals and accommodation. Jimmy Kariuki, Sarova’s Sales and Marketing Director, has given us a fantastic deal at the Panafric Hotel which has previously illustrious guests of Kenyan Rugby such as legendary South African Chester Williams and the Fijian master of sevens rugby Waisele Serevi .”
Muthee also noted that there was a brand new drive to return the culture of tour rugby to Kenya, saying “We want to bring back the tradition of tour rugby. We are treating the Mpumalanga Pumas visit as a big event. We shall treat the two fixtures as test matches. The strongest available Kenyan national team will take to the pitch on both occasions.”
He went on to say, “Both matches will be broadcast live from the RFUEA grounds by South African pay-television company, Supersport . Their Managing Director, Gary Rathbone has confirmed that these broadcasts shall take place.”
Muthee also said the first official tour party to travel outside the country will be a Combined Kenya Universities XV, “hopefully at the end of this year”.
Kenya, have, however, several international engagements this year, including the Elgon Cup [Trio-Nations tournament also involving Uganda and Zimbabwe] and the CAR [Confederation of African Rugby] matches both home and away.
The national squad is already training for the Pumas’ visit and Head Coach, Michael “Tank” Otieno said on Thursday: “We are delighted at Mpumalanga honoring us with the visit. Their standards are at an entirely different level.
“They gave us a whipping on our South African visit last year but we learnt a lot. This time round things will be different. We will field the strongest available teams for both matches. These matches will help us to be ready for the forthcoming international – particularly the fixture away to Zimbabwe.”
“Tank” was speaking from Mombasa where he watched Saturday’s Bamburi Super Series match at Mombasa Sports Club between Coast Bulls and Nguvu Sharks that ended in a 22-0 win for the Sharks.